The National School Lunch Program – pros, cons, and how to get your kids eating healthier Thursday, July 16, 2015 by: Kristina Martin
The National School Lunch Program's supplies meals for over 21 million low-income, food insecure children around the country. For many, it is the only meal they will eat all day, so the USDA created specific guidelines to ensure these students are receiving the most nutritious meal possible.
New Standards for School Lunches
The latest federal program concerning standards for school meals is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. In its original form, the law authorized the funds to extend current child nutrition programs and free lunch programs for 5 years; updated the nutritional standards to include more whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean protein; and gave the USDA authority over schools’ nutritional standards and regulations.
Plenty of criticism has been leveled at the one-size fits all nature of the law as well as the ability of the government to dictate lunch options. The School Nutrition Association, a corporate sponsored group, has been the most vocal opponent of the act, saying that districts are unable to meet the guidelines and that students are throwing the healthier food away. Despite these claims, a Food Resource and Action Center study found that the low-income students who are the focus of the National School Lunch Program are receiving more benefits from the new law, and the USDA reports that 95% of schools have been able to meet the program requirements.
It is possible to get students to eat healthier foods. Schools who have successfully implemented healthier options have done so by slowly introducing these items to students, introducing wheat bread one day and a new vegetable a few weeks later. If no one introduces today’s kids to whole grains, different fruits and veggies, and new foods, the odds of them trying anything new greatly diminishes as they grow older. If we roll back efforts to introduce kids to healthier foods, we will leave our next generation at a serious disadvantage.
Yes, schools have a responsibility to feed their students a healthy lunch. In a perfect world, school lunches wouldn’t require students to drink low fat milk and to prioritize grains rather than promoting the lush nutrition and healing power of vegetables and fruits.
Food education is often ignored. We have found that many young students can’t even identify common vegetables. But education can make a big difference in the quality of food a child chooses and their willingness to try new foods. How many of the schools serving local food are telling the students what they are doing and what the benefits are? Teaching children how to cook fresh food and how to plant and tend a school garden lays a foundation of healthier attitudes toward food and nutrition. But why should our schools be the only ones introducing children to healthy foods and teaching them how to eat?
Learning about food and healthy eating starts at home. There are so many ways you can get your kids excited about eating fruits and veggies and teach them how to be lifelong healthy eaters and by extension enjoy a much better quality of life. The earlier you can introduce your little one to healthy foods, the better. But even if your children have already been introduced to some of our more unsavory food items, here are some tips you can use to turn Mr. Chicken Nuggets and Pizza Girl into kale fiends:
- Let them cook with you. Even if something is ghastly, kids are much more likely to try it and like it if they are the ones who put in the work.
- Smoothies are a great way to slowly introduce veggies to resistant kids. A great nutrition powder can be a great addition to those.
- Turn your little one into a gardener. Gardening will get them outside, teach them patience and responsibility, and get them excited about what they’ve created.
- Keep offering new foods. Maybe the cauliflower wasn’t successful last time, but that’s no reason not to try it again later.
- Lastly, be the example! This is so important, because kids are naturally interested in what adults are doing. If your little one sees you snacking on and enjoying carrots and kale chips, they are that much more likely to have positive association and be willing to try them.
Here’s an ultra healthy smoothie that’s kid approved: http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com. For more information on healthy eating, check out the first two sources below.
About the author:
Kristina works at Green Lifestyle Market. A few years ago Kristina was no stranger to illness, but she decided to pursue health and vitality through natural means when she became pregnant. She quickly learned that she could prevent morning sickness and other common ailments other pregnant woman experienced with the right diet. After a healthy home birth, and a beautiful child, she never looked back. Kristina has not had so much as a cold since, and at two years old and unvaccinated, neither has her child. She’s passionate about natural health, environmental conservation, and raising her healthy baby without pharmaceuticals.